B2B sales tips: Internal champions are great, but you sell to decision makers

by Steli Efti

One of our reps was in the process of selling our inside sales CRM to a pretty large company. They had sales teams all over the world, and their US team manager loved our product, and wanted to champion it within the company.

The ultimate decision makers (VP of Sales & CEO) were both located at their headquarters in Italy though. Yet, our sales rep had never spoken with them. Instead, he coached the US team manager on how to handle common questions and objections.

Our sales rep: “Now I’m just waiting until the end of the month, because that’s when she’s going to be able to get the buy in from the VP of Sales and the CEO.”

Alarm bells started ringing in my head.

YOU should talk with decision makers, not just your internal champions! It’s great if you have a passionate advocate within the organization, working from within to help you close a deal. But don’t rely on that person to do all the heavy lifting.

Stay in control of moving the deal forward.

It's your responsibility to make the sale happen. When you hand over the responsibility of moving the deal forward to an internal champion… there’s not much left you can do. Your potential to be proactive goes down. You just have to sit back and wait, which is a terrible thing to do in sales!

Internal champions can't sell your product as well as you.

Even if you’ve coached and trained your internal champion on how to sell your product to the different stakeholders… they will never be as good as you are at selling your product, handling objections and answering questions about your product and company.

When the internal champion doesn’t know the answers to questions a decision maker deems important, it will make the internal champion look bad.

The decision maker will think: “Well, if she doesn’t even know the answer to these obvious questions, should I trust her judgment on this? That product is probably not a good fit for us.”

Avoid ineffective communication.

Then the internal champion will have to go back to you, the actual sales person, ask these questions, and forward your answers to the decision maker.

chinesewhispers

Not only is this a waste of time, it’s also a very ineffecient and low-impact way of communicating the value your product provides. It’s going to distort the value proposition of your product. Take control of the situation and get involved.

Get access to the decision makers.

If an internal champion wants to make the deal happen for you, here’s what you should tell them:

"I’m glad you love the product, thank you so much for championing this. Let’s do this together. I want to be of service to you and support you as much as possible in this process so that it’ll be a success for all of us.
I know that the [decision makers] will have questions about our product and company that you couldn’t possibly know the answers to.
Let’s schedule a quick 30 minute call with you, me, and [the decision makers]. We’ll be able to answer all the questions and I can be there as an expert supporting you in making your case."

It’s important that you stay involved in the sales process and gain access to the decision makers.

What if a gatekeeper wants to shield the decision maker?

Sometimes the decision makers have instructed their gatekeepers to keep you away from them. They don’t want to deal with sales reps.

Typically a gatekeeper will tell you something like:

“Our VP of Sales wanted me to do all the research and come back with all the information for them, so that they can make a decision, without having to interact with account managers from different vendors.”

There are two approaches that work well in these situations:

  • Be an expert, not a sales rep: “I believe there is no selling to be done at this point. You’re already sold on the product. I just want to be available in that conversation, so that when they have questions, they immediately get a knowledgeable answer, and I’ll be there for them to answer their follow up questions. This will save everyone involved a lot of time and effort.”
  • Pull the CEO-card: “I get that your CEO doesn’t want to talk with account managers from all these different vendors. And because this deal is so important, and your CEO will be involved in making a decision, I’ll bring in our CEO. That way they can talk together and have a meaningful conversation.”
    Now a lot of this is just about acknowledging the importance and status of the decision maker (=bullshit ego play), but that’s how this game is played in many companies.

Conclusion

If you find yourself in a sales process which involves multiple stakeholders, and the real decision makers are not talking with you directly, do everything in your power to get access to all the decision makers.

Sell every single one of these decision makers on making the deal happen, and don’t rely on some internal champion to do all the selling for you. Stay in control of the sale.


Prefer to listen? Here's the audio-only version of the video: